by Monica Ross
The Japanese have a word for the idea that we are all perfectly imperfect. It’s called Kintsukuroi. In other words, through our brokenness we are more beautiful and whole than we would be had we no imperfections. It is the art of taking a broken piece of pottery and highlighting in fact the cracks in it--often with gold to emphasis the point.
Another Japanese philosophy—wabi-sabi. It’s the imperative to see beauty in the imperfect and to accept that there is impermanence in life and also suffering. Even Christianity itself delves into this idea that through brokenness we are made whole though it goes about it through a different route.
But posing things in a dichotomous context like broken/whole is very much a modernist approach to thinking. By modernist approach I’m referring to the cultural phrase or term "modernism." Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was greatly influenced by Rene Descartes.
Also known as Cartesian thinking or rationalistic thinking which takes its name from Descartes, the approach relies on explaining things in neatly defined and mechanistic terms. Nature for example becomes an “other”--independent and mechanistic and something to be wrestled with and to gain dominion over.
After the modernist movement came postmodernism which lasted from the 1950s up until arguable about present time. Think of gender and sexual identity studies. During the modernist movement these things were more clearly defined and with postmodernism we have gender and sexual identity fluidity. This is just one example.
If modernism relied on reason and logic, postmodernism saw reason and science as myth. Some define postmodernism as a reaction to the modernist movement and an attempt to add subjectivity. It introduced cultural relativism versus the modernist universal concept of “Truth.”
It brought about the discussion of hegemony or one group of people having dominance over another. Sometimes this hegemony, postmodernism pointed out, is achieved via logic and reason in the name of progress. With postmodernism we get the idea that the very language we use itself is fluid.
Postmodernism later morphed into something called metamodernism. Metamodernism is kind of a balancing of the two movements--modernism and postmodernism. It recognizes that there are pros and cons to progress. It is a more idealistic approach. Where postmodernism introduced cynicism and irony--metamodernism acknowledges that people can also be sincere.
Metamodernism attempts to make meaning a very personal thing—not objectively defined by some third party or the concept of a universal "Truth" and independent of our making, but at the same time not based solely on our cultural upbringing.
It views life as paradoxical and self-contradictory and always imperfect. Metamodernism dispels dichotomous thinking and clings to both/and thinking. The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy modality or DBT that we have in psychology borrows from the same concep of both/and.
The metamodernistic stance is that life is in flux and emerging. It is also impermanent. Therefore the attempt is to incorporate play as much as possible. And who doesn't love to play?
So why verge into the philosophical about all this?—Kintsukuroi, wabi-sabi, modernism, postmodernism, metamodernism? Because for any subject we study or profession we go into how do we separate out our thinking from the cultural context in which it appears?
We as a society are evolving both literally and figuratively. As we evolve our language about things changes. For example, I refer to my clients as "clients." There was a time when a psychotherapist would refer to a client as a "patient."
Sure, some still use this language "patient." But for me the shift in language is intentional and important.
A focus on science and reason gives credence to the disease model. The disease model approach views a person as having an underlying illness due to biological factors for which medication can lead to a cure.
But another approach might be that there are psychosocial factors that went into the making of the illness that have nothing to do with biology. So that stress from the outside environment might have contributed to a person’s illness.
Some meld the two approaches into the biopsychosocial model to make everybody happy. Suffice it to say that there are philosophical undertones in how we look at the world and make sense of it.
I double majored in Psychology and Sociology because I saw the importance of studying both—not just the individual and not just society as whole because the individual cannot be separated from the culture she grew up in and because a culture or society is greatly influenced by a single individual.
One individual can make a systemic change that not only affects a family unit at the microscopic level but also an entire culture at the macroscopic level. I’m thinking of the father who gets a grip on his drinking habits and controls his alcoholism--bringing peace to his family--and I’m also thinking of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King and the systemic change they sparked.